Didn’t give employees a big year-end bonus? It may be time to think about damage control. The first Wednesday of the year is the most popular day of the year to start looking for a new job, according to the job search website Monster.
"In December, your career is most likely not on the forefront of your mind because you’re racing around with holiday plans and functions," says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster. "But January is a time for fresh starts. When the New Year comes, you might decide you’re not being challenged enough at work, you’re bored with your job, or you want to increase your salary."
In fact, restlessness can affect any employee, and just because someone is satisfied with their job doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for new work, says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. One in five employees are actively seeking a new job at all times, and 30% of millennials expect to have a new job by the end of the year, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.
"It’s critical to keep up with your employees’ needs and continue to challenge them with work they feel is meaningful," says Haefner.
Instead of hoping employees will stay, Salemi and Haefner say there are five things leaders can do to keep them happy:
When asked to rank factors that are more important than salary, 65% of employees said job stability, according to the CareerBuilder survey. This attribute was the number one factor that motivates an employee to stay.
Employees want to know about the path to promotion, and where they are along the way, says Salemi. "Leaders should be asking them, ‘What are your goals?’" she says. "They should be sharing the next steps in the career path and a timeframe for what’s realistic."
Fostering employee improvement is helpful for stability, says Salemi. Companies should help them build their skill sets by increasing training budgets, sending employees to industry conferences, and offering tuition reimbursement.
Even companies that offer great culture and benefits can’t ignore that compensation is an important part of the package. "If an employee is being paid under market value, it will affect morale," says Salemi.
While raises are always welcome, there are some creative things companies can do, such as offering midyear bonuses, 401k matching, or monetary rewards.
"Spot awards for a job well done can be very effective, offering a percentage of their salary or a flat fee," she says. "Salary should never be undervalued, it’s in the best interest of the company to pay employees fairly."
One in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career, according to a 2015 Gallup Poll, and only 35% of managers are engaged. Gallup estimates that managers who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually.
The first step is to make sure managers understand the importance of having an open line of communication, says Salemi. Hold town hall meetings and be available for regular check-ins.
"Managers that empower their employees will make employees like a valuable asset," she says.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make employees happy. When asked if they could choose extra perks to make their workplace more satisfying, the CareerBuilder respondents chose half-day Fridays, an on-site fitness center, daily catered lunches, massages, and the ability to wear jeans to work.
Salemi says perks that contribute to work-life balance, such as a free dry-cleaning service that picks up and delivers to the office, can also be enticing.
While exit interviews are a popular function in HR, Salemi says the information comes too late. She suggests that company leaders conduct stay interviews: "Exit interviews provide HR with insight on what needs to be fixed, but it’s after the fact," she says. "In a stay interview, managers should ask questions such as, ‘Why do you work here? What do you enjoy about your job? What would make you leave?’"
The information shared in a stay interview will help managers know specific culture attributes and job benefits that are most valued by their employees, as well as areas that need improvement. To work, stay interviews require an atmosphere of confidentiality and company transparency.
"Employees need to know what goes on in the conference room stays in the conference room so they feel safe in speaking," she says. "And leaders need to be available, with an open door policy that lends itself well to being approachable."